Sheila Barton is a local caterer with a flair for food styling. After watching her work her magic at several parties, we asked her for a few tips on creating your own "Classic Cocktail Bar." Here are her tips...
I thought it would benefit many to talk about how to set up the perfect holiday cocktail bar. Not only are the essentials so very important, but so are Style, Texture and Taste. I am always about creating an experience..starting with your eyes and ending with taste. Even if you can only afford to serve one great wine and one great beer, you can still do it with style. If you can throw in a classic craft cocktail or two, more the merrier!
So to first create Style, it is important to create a feeling of glamour and fun. You do this with visual appeal using different heights and Texture. Soft textures can be created from linens, flowers and food and hard textures from cake stands as serving pieces, vases and pretty glasses. Even ice served in a pretty glass container is a wonderful texture. A very important part of a successful cocktail bar is being organized and creating a sense of comfort and ease which means having everything you need prepared and ready as the first guest arrives. Have all liqueurs, garnishes, mixers and hors d’oeuvres ready so your guests can feel comfort in walking up to the bar and sampling an already mixed signature cocktail or making their favorite classic cocktail themselves.
Last but not least is Taste. Adding some delicious and interesting food pairings to your cocktail bar completely captures your guests. I believe that any guest would love to walk up to a beautiful fully stocked bar and be able to sample candied bacon and spicy and sweet nut brittle while sipping a classic Old Fashioned (see our Holiday Hors D’oeuvres Menu for additional pairings).
Isn’t this bar begging you to pick up a French 75 champagne cocktail and figs with prosciutto?
What I have learned is that you always need the absolute basics on hand for a cocktail bar (even if you don’t put everything out on your bar, have the basics on hand). You can presume everyone will be happy with beer and wine but there is always one or two that would love their “go to” gin and tonic or their dry martini “shaken not stirred”.
Sheila’s Cocktail Bar Basics
- Cocktail Shaker
- Jigger or measuring mixing glass
- Light Rum
- Dark/Spiced Rum
- Orange Liqueur such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
- Dry and Sweet Vermouth
- Mixers such as Tonic Water, Coke, Cranberry Juice, Fresh Lemon and Lime Juice and Bitters
- Garnishes such as Lemons, Limes, Maraschino Cherries and Large Martini Olives
- Simple syrup (mix 1 part sugar with 1 part water and heat in saucepan until sugar dissolves, store in refrigerator for 1 month)
- Sugar for rimming glass
If this list seems not quite “basic” enough, just make sure you have a cocktail shaker, Gin, Vodka, Bourbon, Dry Vermouth, Tonic Water, Coke, Maraschino Cherries, Lemons (and of course ice)!
So in creating our holiday food and drink menus, there is of course a lot of “research” I call it... or “sampling”. While “researching” a classic craft cocktail, the BOBBY BURNS, made with Scotch, Sweet Vermouth and this lovely concoction called Benedictine liqueur made by Alexandre Le Grand in the 19th century, I had an allergic reaction to this lovely concoction and almost went to the hospital! I have not ever had an allergic reaction to food or drink, but my friend informed me that it is due to my hormones changing and becoming more “mature”...bah hum bug! Needless to say, the Bobby Burns took classic to the extreme and will not be on our menu!